Goans need to be fully aware to share the concerns of the leaders of all nations across the globe who gathered at Katowice in Poland on Sunday for a United Nations summit to deal with the ‘urgent threat’ of runaway climate change. The summit comes in the wake of the serious warnings about the dangers of environmental degradation. Climate change has affected the whole world. Goa too is facing its adverse impact. The state has witnessed changes in its weather pattern. A TERI study on ‘Climate Resilient Infrastructure Services’ in 2014 examined the mean sea level along the Panaji coast. A combination of outputs from 15 climate change models was used to make future projections (year 2100) that shows a sea level rise of 0.3mm/year. Though Goans have fought hard to protect nature and environment, all of them perhaps are not aware of the long-term impact of climate change as no comprehensive scientific studies have been done on the subject with specific respect to Goa.
The state government has, more often than not, allowed development to take precedence over environmental protection. The most recent example is a framing of a policy to allow mass conversion of orchard land for development. Most of the environmental issues in Goa are associated with development and urbanization, which has been rapid over the last three decades. As a result of urbanization large-scale conversion of land has taken place. Open cast mining, which has since been stopped following Supreme Court order, has been a major contributing factor for environmental degradation in the state. The TERI study has revealed that an estimated 2,500 hectares of forests were lost due to mining between 1988 and 1997. An India State of Forest Report 2017 has said that forest cover within the recorded forest area has decreased by 9 square km (900 ha) due to mining and other developmental activities within two years from its 2015 assessment. There are encroachments in forest land. Others issues that have contributed to the environmental degradation are lack of urban amenities – sewage disposal systems, slums, health problems, pollution, congestion and traffic bottlenecks. Air pollution has been rising in all the cities of the state. The rivers are polluted. The Miramar beach has been denied a Blue Flag certification owing to the pollution of the water at the beach. These issues may look small but would take on gigantic proportions in the years to come.
Goans must take climate change seriously. If unchecked, it will have a far-reaching impact on every aspect of human life. It will affect our water resources, forests, agriculture, power generation, infrastructure, tourism and human health. The overall negative impacts of climate change could be less severe if we take steps along with the other conscious communities of the world to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that we are releasing into the atmosphere. Automobiles and ACs are some of the major contributors of carbon. Their numbers are rising at a phenomenal rate. The impact could be irreversible if we continue producing greenhouse gases at faster rates. Climate change has affected the rainfall pattern with the state receiving very heavy rainfall for one year followed by much lesser rain in the subsequent year. The state also has been witnessing hotter days over the last few decades, even during the monsoons and winter; hotter days would not only damage crops but also affect human and animal health.
The UN talks are being held at a crucial juncture in mankind’s response to planetary warming. The large and small underdeveloped nations that are bearing the brunt of the devastation from climate change are pushing for developed states to fulfill the promises they made in the 2015 Paris agreement. The developed nations have not been very cooperative on taking strong measures to curb factors contributing to climate change. People from developed nations have been pressing their governments to do more to contain climate change but not always successfully. Timing with the UN meet, thousands of people marched through the streets of Brussels on Sunday to ask the Belgian government to respect its commitments on countering climate change. There was no such march in India. There should have been a march in Goa. That would have raised awareness of the Goans at large about the threat from climate change. That would have made them think about how it is going to affect the environment every time they have to take a decision about buying or using something that contributes to greenhouse gases. Mass awareness would make the government also think of greenhouse implications before they took a decision.